SEPTEMBER 22, 1947
HYDE PARK, Sunday—It was with sorrow yesterday that I heard of the death of former Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. He was a colorful personality and a man of great courage. He would often say that politicians were no good, and yet he was a skillful politician himself. He had a decided unevenness of temperament. He would blow up with the people who worked with him, then call them up to apologize. Yet in spite of this they could not help loving him even when they left him.
My husband had an affection for him and a great admiration for his qualities of leadership. In certain things, I think La Guardia's sense of his own ability made it difficult for him to get really good results. That observation is made from having worked with him in the Office of Civilian Defense. He was then extremely busy, but there was no one to whom he felt sure he could delegate his authority. As a result, work lagged while we waited to be called to a meeting or to get his decisions.
Mr. La Guardia had great difficulties with Congress over the program, as anyone would have had in this position. But he failed to get many things across simply because he did not understand them himself. He could not understand them because he really never had the time to go into them thoroughly. The things which interested him he did himself, and he did them extremely well.
I shall never forget how quickly he wanted to move into the danger zone when war came to this country. No sooner had the Japanese attacked than he made up his mind that we must go to the West Coast. On the way, after he had gone to bed on the plane, a ridiculous rumor came over the radio that San Francisco was being bombed. Finally I decided that we should wake him, since at the next stop we would have to decide what we were going to do. I can see him now as he put his head through the curtains. When I told him the rumor, he remarked: "Since you are still dressed, at the next stop go and telephone. If they are bombing San Francisco, we will go directly there."
Like many other people, I expected that for years to come he would be writing and talking to us, telling us in picturesque language many things that, even if not quite temperate, were fundamentally good things to have said. He was good for this country, I believe. He loved it as he loved children—simply, naturally and with all his very heart. Injustice, prejudice, cruelty always aroused him and made him buckle on his armor for the fray.
We shall miss him, those of us who knew him and admired him as I did, and the country has lost a good influence. But if he knew that he was leaving us, I am sure that he said to himself: "Life has been good. I fought the good fight."